Nagapattinam (nākappaṭṭinam, previously spelt Nagapatnam or Negapatam) is a town in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and the administrative headquarters of Nagapattinam District. The town came to prominence during the period ofMedieval Cholas (9th–12th century CE) and served as their important port for commerce and east-bound naval expeditions. The Chudamani Vihara in Nagapattinam constructed by the Sri Lankan king with the help of Chola kingdom is an important Buddhist structure of the times. Nagapattinam was settled by the Portuguese and, later, the Dutch under whom it served as the capital of Dutch Coromandel from 1660 to 1781 CE.[1] In November 1781, the town was conquered by the British East India Company. It served as the capital of Tanjore district from 1799 to 1845 CE under Madras Presidency of the British.[1] It continued to be a part of Thanjavur district in Independent India. In 1991, it was made the headquarters of the newly created Nagapattinam District. Nagapattinam is administered by a Selection-grade municipality covering an area of 14.92 km2 (5.76 sq mi) and had a population of 102,905 as of 2011.

      Majority of the people of Nagapattinam are employed in sea-borne trading, fishing, agriculture and tourism. The major pilgrimage site in Nagapattinam is Nagore Durgah, a 16th-century site. The major festival of Nagapattinam is the 14-day Kanduri festival celebrated in the Durgah, which is seen as a sacred exchange between Hindus and Muslims expressing solidarity of mixed faith in the region. Kayarohanaswami Temple and Soundararajaperumal Temple, Nagapattinam are the other major Hindu pilgrimage sites. Nagapattinam is the base for tourism for SikkalVelankanniPoompuharKodikkaraiVedaranyamMannargudi and Tharangambadi. Roadways is the major mode of transport to Nagapattinam, while the city also has rail and sea transport. The town along with the district was severely damaged by the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004.




  •       Nagapattinam is derived from Nagar referring to people from Sri Lanka who settled here and pattinam referring to town.[1][2] It was also called Cholakula Vallipattinam during the Chola period, when it was one of the important ports. Ptolemyrefers to Nagapattinam as Nikam and mentions it as one of the most important trade centres of the ancient Tamil country.[1] This view is doubtful as there are no contemporary evidences to prove the existence a metropolis in the name of "Nikama" or "Nikam".[3] Nagapattinam was referred by early writers and the Portuguese as "the city of Coromandel".[1] Appar and Tirugnanasambandar, the 7th-century saint poets refer the city as Nagai in their verses in Tevaram. The town was originally called "Nagai" and the word Pattinam was attached during the Chola era when it emerged as an important port.[4]


       There are no direct references to Nagapattinam during the Sangam period (3rd century BCE to 3rd century CE). There are urn burials in and around the city from the Sangam period indicating some level of human habitation.[3] The neighbouring port, Kaveripoompattinam (modern day Poompuhar), was the capital of the Chola kingdom of the Sangam Age, referred widely in Tamil scriptures like Paṭṭiṉappālai.[3]

      The early works of Tevaram by the 7th-century poets Appar and Sambandar mention the town had fortified walls, busy road building and a busy port.[5] The inscriptions from the Kayarohanswami temple indicate the construction was initiated during the reign of the Pallava king, Narasimha Pallava II (691–729 CE).[6] A Buddhist pagoda was built under Chinese influence by the Pallava king and town was frequented by Buddhist travelers.[6] Thirumangai Azhwar, the 9th century vaishnavite saint poet is believed to have stolen the golden Buddha statue to fund the Ranganthaswamy Temple at Srirangam; the authenticity of the theory is questionable.[6] In the 11th century CE, Chudamani Vihara, a Buddhist monastery was built by Javanese king Sri Vijaya Soolamanivarman with the patronage of Raja Raja Chola.[7] Nagapattinam was the prominent port of Cholas for trade and conquering gateway to the east.

      In the early 16th century the Portuguese started commercial contacts with the town and established a commercial centre in 1554 CE. The Portuguese also conducted missionary enterprise here.[8] In 1658, the Dutch established an agreement between King Vijaya Nayakkar of Thanjavur on 5 January 1662. Ten villages were transferred from the Portuguese to the Dutch — Nagapattinam Port, Puthur, Muttam, Poruvalancheri, Anthanappettai, Karureppankadu, AzhingiMangalam, Sangamangalam, Thiruthinamangalam, Manjakollai, Nariyankudi. Ten Christian churches and a hospital were built by the Dutch. They released coins with the name Nagapattinam engraved in Tamil. As per agreement between the first Maratta King Egoji of Thanjavur and the Dutch, Naagapattinam and surrounding villages were handed over to the Dutch on 30 December 1676. In 1690, the capital ofDutch Coromandel changed from Pulicat to Nagapattinam.[8]

        This town fell into the hands of the British in 1781 after the two naval battles between British and French fleets were fought off the coast of Negapatam, as it was then known: the first in 1758 as part of the Seven Years' War and the second in 1782 as part of the American Revolutionary War. The town was taken by the British from the Dutch in 1781 (who had been formally brought into the war in 1780).[9] When the Dutch and British reached a peace agreement in 1784, Nagapattinam was formally ceded to the British. 277 villages with Nagore as the headquarters were handed over to theEast India Company.

        From 1799 to 1845 CE Nagapttinam was the headquarters of Tanjore district.[1] Nagapattinam and Nagore were incorporated as a single municipality in 1866 CE.[1] The town remained one of the chief ports to the Madras Presidency. The port suffered decline after the inclusion of Tranquebar andTuticorin ports. After India's independence, Sirkazhi continued to be a part of Thanjavur district until 1991, and later became part of the newly created Nagapattinam district. Nagapattinam was severely affected by the tsunami which followed the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.[10][11][12][13]


        Nagapattinam lies at 10.77°N 79.83°E.[10] The town is bounded by Bay of Bengal in the east, Uppanar river in the south, Thiruvarur district in the west, Thanjavaur district in the north west and Karaikkal & Puducherry in the north.[10] The town lies in the sea level.[10] The municipality covers an area of 14.92 km2 (5.76 sq mi)[10] Nagapattinam is situated at a distance of 350 km (220 mi) from Chennai, 14 km (8.7 mi) from Karaikal, 40 km (25 mi) from Mayiladuthurai, 40 km (25 mi) from Kumbakonam, 80 km (50 mi) from Thanjavur and 25 km (16 mi) from Thiruvarur.[10] The town receives an annual rainfall of 350 mm (14 in).[10] Nagapattinam has a tropical climate during the summer months of March to May. The proximity to sea results in a high humidity throughout the year and reaches 70% during August to May. The town has a plain terrain of alluvial soil consisting of sand, silt and clay. Vettar, the tributaries of river Cauvery are the major water bodies . Paddy is the major crop in the region followed by groundnut, pulsessugarcane, cotton and sesame.[10] The town is one of the cyclone-prone zones and was devastated during the 2004 tsunami.[14] A very fine layer of high saline soil was deposited in the paddy fields.[15]

2004 tsunami

          The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was an undersea megathrust earthquake that on 26 December 2004, with an epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, which triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean.[16] Nagapattinam district was the most affected part in Tamil Nadu, accounting for 6,064 off the 8,009 casualties in the state.[17] A large number of the casualties were from the fishing community, who resided close to the seashore. The property losses impacted the fishing industry, as most of the boats were damaged by the inundation.[18] The immediate aftermath created a lull in the tourism industry.[19]

Climate data for Nagapattinam, India
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
 °C (°F)
 °C (°F)
mm (inches)
Source: [20]


igloo shaped concrete house

Permanent shelter for tsunami-affected families in Nagapattinam








        According to 2011 census, Nagapattinam had a population of 102,905 with a sex-ratio of 1,026 females for every 1,000 males, much above the national average of 929.[23] A total of 11,884 were under the age of six, constituting 6,089 males and 5,795 females. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes accounted for 8.67% and 0.62% of the population respectively. The average literacy of the town was 78.74%, compared to the national average of 72.99%.[23] The town had 24688 households. There were 33,532 workers, comprising 209 cultivators, 320 main agricultural labourers, 605 in house hold industries, 29,875 other workers, 2,523 marginal workers, 35 marginal cultivators, 130 marginal agricultural labourers, 64 marginal workers in household industries and 2,294 other marginal workers.[22]

        The decadal growth rate was higher during the decade ending 1981 due to increase in the town limits from 8.7 km2 (3.4 sq mi) to 14.95 km2 (5.77 sq mi).[24] The overall growth rate has declined over the period due to migration of people to other urban centres.[24] There are 40 slums in the town as of 2001, with an estimated 44% residing in these slums. Out of 40 slums, 14 were affected by the 2004 tsunami. With the help of grant schemes and tsunami assistance programmes, these were rebuilt to tsunami-proof houses.[25]


The fishing boats at Nagapattinam

        The main occupation of Nagapattinam is fishing in the waters of Bay of Bengal. The fish is sold in the daily and weekly fish markets in the town. There are a large number of ice factories for preserving the fish. The industry suffered a setback after the tsunami that struck the coast on 26 December 2004.[26]

        There is limited agricultural activity, but a lot of agricultural commerce conducted in the town.[26] Majority of the people are employed in service industry belonging to the teritiary sector.[26] The town is also the centre of retail provisions trading for the towns and villages surrounding Nagapattinam.[26]

        Tourism is a major economic driver with the presence of heritage and historic points like Nagore, Velankanni, SikkalKodikkarai, Vedaranyam, Mannargudi and Tharangambadi.[26]

        There is limited industrial activity – the major industries are household, tailoring, embroidery, plastic wire and metal manufacturing.[26] Cauvery Basin Refinery, a subsidiary of Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited (CPCL) is near Nagapattinam. Established in 1993, it is a major contributor to the economy of the town.[26] The development of industries is constrained by the town being linear and applicability of CRZ regulations that prevent large-scale construction and industrial buildings.[26]

        All major nationalised banks such as State Bank of IndiaIndian BankCentral Bank of IndiaPunjab National BankIndian Overseas Bank and private banks like ICICI BankCity Union Bank have branches in Nagapattinam.[27] All these banks have theirautomated teller machines located in various parts of the town.[27]


        Nagapattinam municipality accommodates 104.539 km (64.958 mi) of roads; 27.328 km (16.981 mi) of cement roads, 72.993 km (45.356 mi) of bituminous roads, 1.2 km (0.75 mi) of WBM roads and 3.018 km (1.875 mi) of earthern roads.[28] Nagapattinam is connected by two national highways, NH 45A to Villupuram and NH 67 to Coimbatore and Gundlupete in Karnataka state.[14] Nagapattinam is connected with Chennai, Coimbatore, Tiruchirapalli, Karaikal and other major towns of Tamil Nadu through the state highways SH 22 from Grand Anaicut to KaveripoompattinamSH 23 from Mayiladuthurai to Thiruthuraipoondi, SH 64 from Kumbakonam to SirkazhiSH 67 from Nagore to Nachiyar KoilSH 147 from Kumbakonam to KaraikkalSH 148 from Nagore to Vettar. SH 149 from Sembanarkoil to Nalladai, SH 150 fromVaitheeswarankoil to Lower Anaicut and SH 151 from Kilvelur to Kachanam.[14] The Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation operates close to 175 daily services connecting various cities to Nagapattinam.[29] Most of the buses via Nagapattinam operated by the corporation ply between Trichyand Velankanni.[29] The corporation operates a computerised reservation centre in the municipal bus stand of Nagapattinam.[30] It operates 25 town buses satisfying the local transport needs of Nagapattinam and the neighbouring villages.[29] The State Express Transport Corporation operates long distance buses connecting Nagapattinam to BangaloreThiruvanathapuram and Marthandam.[29]

        Great South Indian Railway Company (GSIR) had its headquarters at Nagapattinam between 1861 and 1875. Broad gauge railway [BG] line was operated between Nagapattinam and Tiruchirapally via Tiruvarur, Thanjavur between 1861 and 1875. During 1875 it was converted as meter gauge (MG) line. The GSIR headquarters was shifted to Tiruchirapally during 1875. The railway workshop was at Negapatnam till 1929 and contributed to the growth of the town.[31] It was also moved to Golden rock [Ponmalai] during 1929. Nagapattinam railway junction connects Thiruvarur in the west, Nagore in the north, Velankanni in the south and Karaikkal in the east. There are passenger trains to Trichy, Thanjavur, Mayiladuthurai, Karaikal, Mannargudi and Thiruthuraipoondi.[32] There is a daily express train to Chennai via Mayiladuthurai and Ernakulam via Coimbatore. The are two triweekly trains from Mannargudi to Tirupathi and Velankanni to Goa that passed via Nagapattinam.[32]

        The port of Nagapattinam is in the Bay of Bengal in the mouth of river Kuduvayyar.[33] Nagapattinam was the most important port of the Chola empire. All the eastern naval expeditions of Rajendra Chola I (1012–44 CE) were through the port. The port was widely used by the Dutch, Portuguese and British as one of the major ports in Coramandel Coast for trading purposes.[33] Most of the principal exports to Sri Lanka from the port during the British period were rice, piece goods, live stock, cigars, tobacco and skin. The trade of Nagapattinam was mostly with Sri Lanka, Straits Settlements, Burma and to a small extent to the United Kingdom and Spain.[34] The port also served passenger traffic to Singapore, but was susepended due to a fire accident.[35] The modern day port has a commercial port complex and a dockyard that are protected by a river mouth sand bar facing the port.[36] The port handles only limited amount of edible oil imports.[35] The Nagapttinam lighthouse is the first conventional 20 m (66 ft) high lighthouse tower built inside the port premises by the British in 1869.[37] The port and the lighthouse are maintained by the Tamil Nadu Maritime Board under the Government of India.[33]

The nearest Airport is Tiruchirapalli Airport, located 145 km (90 mi) away from the town.[38]

Culture and tourism

        Tourism plays a key economic role for the town even though fishing is the major occupation. Nagapttinam is base for heritage and historic points like Nagore, Velankanni, Sikkal, Kodiyakkarai, Vedaranyam, Mannargudi and Tharangambadi.

twin minarets with two minarets in the background

Nagore Durgah, built in the 16th century is one of the major landmarks of the town

Nagore Durgha, a 16th-century minaret located in Nagore, is one of the important pilgrimage centres of the town. Kanduri festival is a 14-day event celebrated for the annual urs(anniversary) of the saint Hajrath Shahul Hamid (1490–1579 CE), after whom the minaret is built.[39] The festival is celebrated in commemoration of the anniversary of the saint's death, and pilgrims from various religions participate in the rituals and rites. The festival is also seen as a sacred exchange between Hindus and Muslims expressing solidarity of mixed faith in the region.[40] It is believed that 60 percent of the shrines were built by Hindus and historically the minaret garners lot of domestic and international visitors.[41] There are three other prominent mosques; one near Nagai Pudhur Road, one near the new bus stand and one another at Moolakadai Street.[42]

Kayarohanaswami Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva. The temple has been in existence from the 6th century CE and has been reverred by the verses of Tevaram, the 7th–8th century Saiva canonical work by ApparCampantar and Sundarar.[42] The temple is one of the seven temples of the Thyagaraja cult, classified as Saptha Vidangam, where the presiding deity Thyagaraja is believed to portray different dance styles.[43] The temple is also known for the shrine of Neelayadakshi, the consort of Kayarohanaswami.[42]

courtyard of a temple with towers in the background

Kayarohanaswami Temple – one of the oldest temples in the town

Soundararajaperumal Temple is a Hindu temple in the town dedicated to Vishnu. It is one of the Divya Desams, the 108 temples of Vishnu reverred in Nalayira Divya Prabandham by Thirumangai Azhwar, one of the 12 poet saints called Azhwars belonging to the 6th–9th century.[42] Nagapattinam is base to some of the prominent Hindu temples like Sikkal Singaravelan Temple at SikkalVedaranyeswarar Temple at Vedaranyam, Ettukudi Murugan Temple and Koothanur Maha Saraswathi Temple.[44]

Velankanni is a pilgrimage centre located 10 km (6.2 mi) from Nagapattinam. The town is known for the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health, a Roman Catholic church built during the 17th century. Pilgrimage to the basilica is common during September when people of many faiths, especially Hindus, Muslims and Christians of all denominations visit the basilica.[44] The town has four prominent churches; the Lourdhu Madha (Sindhathurai Madha) Church, the Madharasi Madha Church, T.E.L.C. Church and the Protestant Church.[42]

Education and utility services

St. Joseph's College, opened in Nagapattinam in 1846 and transferred to Tiruchirappalli in 1883, is one of the oldest higher educational institutions in India.[45] Nagapattinam has 12 elementary schools, 8 high schools and 7 higher secondary schools.[46] There are 2 arts and science colleges, one engineering college, 2 polytechnic colleges and one industrial training institute (ITI) in the town.[46]

Electricity supply to the town is regulated and distributed by the Nagapattinam circle of Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB).[47] Water supply is provided by the Nagapattinam Municipality through borewells from Vettar river – the distribution is done through pumping stations located at Kurukathi, Andipalayam and Solomon Park.[48] About 55 metric tonnes of solid waste are collected from the town every day from the town.[49] Nagapattinam municipality does not have underground drainage system and the current sewerage system for disposal of sullage is through septic tanks and public conveniences.[50] Storm water drainage system is made up of natural river drain and man-made storm water drains.[51]

Nagapattinam comes under the Nagapattinam telecom circle of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), India's state-owned telecom and internet services provider. Apart from telecom, BSNL provides broadband internet service[52] There are six government hospitals in the town, with the largest being the District Government Hospital.[53] There are 28 other private hospitals and clinics, and medical shops.[53]


Municipality Officials
Chairman S. Manjula[54]
Commissioner A. Abdul Lateef[55]
Vice-Chairman A. Sultan Abdul Kadar[56]
Elected Members
Member of Legislative Assembly K. A. Jayapal[57]
Member of Parliament Dr. K. Gopal[58]

        Nagapattinam was declared a municipality in 1866 during British times.[10] It was promoted to a second grade municipality in 1986 and selection grade in 1998.[11] From 1991, the municipal limits were expanded to have Nagore.[11] The municipality has 36 wards and there is an elected councillor for each of those wards.[59] The functions of the municipality are devolved into six departments: General administration/personnel, Engineering, Revenue, Public Health, Town planning and IT.[60] All these departments are under the control of a Municipal Commissioner who is the supreme executive head.[60] The legislative powers are vested in a body of 36 members, one each from the 36 wards. The legislative body is headed by an elected chairperson assisted by a deputy chairperson.[61] The town became the district headquarters when the Nagapattinam district was created as a separate district.

        Nagapattinam comes under the Nagapattinam assembly constituency and it elects a member to the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly every five years.[62] From the 1977 elections, the assembly seat was won by Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) once during the 1996 elections, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) twice during the 1991 and 2001 elections, Communist Party of India (Marxist) for five times during the 1977, 1980, 1984, 1989 and 2006 elections.[63] The current MLA of the constituency is K. A. Jayapal, the minister for fisheries in the Government of Tamil Nadu.[57]

        Nagapattinam is a part of the Nagapattinam (Lok Sabha constituency) – it has the following six assembly constituencies – Thiruvarur, Nagapattinam, ThiruthuraipoondiVedaranyamKilvelur (SC) and Nannilam.[64] The current Member of Parliament from the constituency is Dr. K. Gopal from the AIADMK party.[58] From 1957, the Nagapattinam parliament seat was held by the Indian National Congress for five times during 1957–1961,[65] 1962–67,[66] 1967–71,[67] 1991–96,[68] and 1996–98[69] elections. CPI won the seat for five times during 1971–77,[70] 1977–80,[71] 1989–91,[72] 1996–98[69] and 1998[73] elections. DMK won four times during 1980–84,[74] 1999–2004,[75] 2004–09[76] and 2011 elections.[77] AIADMK won the seat twice during the 1984–89 elections and 2014 elections.[78][58]

        Law and order in the town in maintained by the Nagapattinam sub division of the Tamil Nadu Police headed by a Deputy Superintendent (DSP).[79] There are three police stations in the town, one of them being an all-women police station.[80] There are special units like prohibition enforcement, district crime, social justice and human rights, district crime records and special branch that operate at the district level police division headed by a Superintendent of Police (SP).[79]